The all conquering Arab army of Islam which swept through Persia and parts of Byzantine – two of the greatest kingdoms of the era – came to a grinding halt in Bharat. It is a period of glory and valor in our history.
The caliphate started its incursions just 4 years after Muhammad’s death. Arabs faced numerous defeats at the beginning.
In 636, a naval expedition was intercepted by Chalukyas and defeated at Thane. Another naval attack in same year was defeated by the Hindu ruler of Sindh at Debal. Next year an Arab land expedition to Balochistan was defeated by the Brahman ruler of Sindh.
In 640 CE, Muslims made a thrust into Kikanana near Bolan Pass but were defeated by the local Jats in a fierce encounter. In 659, Al Haris launched a Jihad and took Makran coast in 662 but Hindus decisively retaliated and killed Al Haris in an encounter on the Makran coast and threw out the Arabs.
In 664 CE, the Caliph sent Al Mahallab who was again promptly defeated in Makran. In 666 CE, Abdullah-al-Iraqi led a Jihad but he was killed in Balochistan. In 690s, Sinan ibn Salmah occupied Makran coast in Balochistan. He was followed by Rashid ibn Amr who was defeated by Hindus and Makran was reclaimed. Soon after Al Mudhir led an army but he too was defeated by the Rajan of Sindh.
In 706, Al Hajjaj, the governor of Iraq, sent Al Harri al Bahithi who occupied Makran and established a base. From there in 708, Ubaidullah attacked Sindh but was defeated and the Arabs were driven back. In 709, Al Budail attacked Sindh but again the Arabs were routed. Thus, Hindus in Balochistan and Sindh routed Arabs several times.
It was only after 13 unsuccessful attempts and 75 years later, that finally Arabs under Mohd ibn Qasim conquered Sindh in 712 CE, that was largely because the local Buddhists betrayed the king. From here the next phase of struggle started as Arabs tried to move further inland.
The Arab goal was to establish the Caliphate in mainland Bharat. Between 724-770s various battles took place and the Arabs would, according to Bharatiya inscriptions, at multiple times run over Kachh, Saurashtra, Bharuch and parts of Southern Rajasthan and Western Madhya Pradesh before being thrown out by Hindus.
Al Junayd (723-726) was defeated in the North by the Karkotas likely under the Kashmir ruler Lalitaditya Muktapida. Junayd overran several kingdoms in Gujarat and Rajasthan but Hindu kings soon recovered. During Al Hakam’s (731-740) governorship of Sindh, Hindus decisively rolled back Arabs.
In 739 CE, in a large land battle at Navasari in Gujarat, Avanijaneshvara Pulakeshin, a vassal of Vikramaditya II, the Chalukyan King, decisively defeated the Arabs. In this battle, he was helped by another Chalukyan vassal Dantidurga who would later found the Rashtrakuta dynasty.
Earlier in 736, the Gurjaras of Lata defeated an Arab force under Jayabhatta IV in Bahruch. Around the same period Nagabhata I of Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty defeated an Arab expedition to Ujjain. Bappa Rawal threw out the Arabs from Chittor.
Thus, under the Chalukya, Karkotas and Pratiharas, all territories were recovered and the Arabs were pushed back to Sindh. Al Hakam died in 740 at the hand of Maitrakas in Gujarat. In 776, Arabs launched a naval expedition against the Saindhavas (Saurashtra) but were defeated by Agguka I.
From there on the Pratiharas stood as a bulwark against further Arab attacks and kept them in check. Arab traveler Suleiman in 851 wrote of Bhoja and his empire, ” No Bharatiya king has a finer cavalry. He is unfriendly to Arabs and is the biggest foe of the Mohammedans.”
Nagabhata II (805-833) captured several Arab outposts along the Sindh border and the great Mihira Bhoja (836-885 CE) successfully vassalised the Arabs in Sindh and Multan who started minting coins in the name of the Pratihara king and did so from 840s-960s CE.
This era doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, especially in school texts due to obvious secular reasons. It is up to us to correct this.
- An Advanced history of India – RC Majumdar.
(This article has been collated from the tweet thread of @kishkinda2 )
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